Scots favour 3-year degree

June 27, 1997

The Scottish committee of the Dearing inquiry into higher education is set to recommend a shift away from the four-year honours degree in favour of Scotland's traditional three-year general degree.

The committee, chaired by industrialist Sir Ron Garrick, is expected to back the retention of the honours degree for disciplines leading to professions such as law and engineering. But it believes students in many other subjects could take a broad-based three-year course, followed by a postgraduate qualification if necessary. At present, around 70 per cent of Scottish students graduate with honours degrees.

The Garrick committee's proposals are not an attempt to cut higher education funding, but are driven by what it sees as Scotland's educational needs. Confidential figures compiled by the Scottish Office and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council show that the annual cost of a full-time Scottish student is 10 per cent higher than the cost south of the border. But this is seen as an autonomous decision by the Scottish Office to invest more heavily in higher education, underpinning economic growth.

Despite the predominance of the four-year degree, arguably a greater financial burden on students, Scotland maintains a net inflow of 15,000 students each year from elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Sir Graeme Davies, principal of Glasgow University, said Glasgow had already introduced a revamped three-year generalist degree which allowed students to cross faculty boundaries. It aimed to be a qualification in its own right rather than a failed honours degree.

"We would resist any undermining of the four-year degree as a professional and vocational programme, but would find a shift in the balance between three and four-year degrees acceptable," he said.

Ronald Crawford, secretary of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, said COSHEP's submission to Dearing had anticipated a trend in favour of a revival of three-year degrees. But a great deal depended on whether employers said they had a high regard for the academic integrity of a general degree, he warned.

The Garrick report will be published as a separate volume to the main Dearing committee report.

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